While in Florida last week we did some birding at Viera Wetlands (while waiting out the time between shuttle launch scrubs). We wanted to go to Viera and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and weren’t sure which one to visit first. I mentioned our dilemma on Twitter and got this reply from Birdchick: “Do Viera, do Viera, do Viera!” This was very good advice indeed: Merritt Island was actually closed the entire time we were on the Space Coast due to the scheduled shuttle launch. (Birdchick also has some great blog posts about Viera which I would highly recommend to anyone planning a visit there: Birdchick’s Viera Wetlands posts.)
The Viera Wetlands, actually named the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, are owned by the Brevard County Utility Services and are part of a non-traditional water treatment method used by the county. We knew this going in; what we didn’t realize is that the wetlands are perfectly set up for wildlife viewing, with an observation tower and several one-way roads providing routes through the ponds that are absolutely ideal for birding from the car.
We visited two different mornings and almost melted in the heat, which we totally weren’t used to. When we visited on Friday, June 12 it was about 85°F when we arrived with 85% humidity and no wind. We decided to drive the slow dirt roads around the wetlands with our windows open – big mistake. At the end of the day there were about 80,000 mosquitoes in the car. The second time, we left the windows closed and made frequent stops to view the birds.
Signs at the entrance of the wetlands provided information and explained the rules (stay on the roads, routes are one-way, 10MPH speed limit, etc). There was a sign asking for any Purple Gallinule sightings to be reported (we didn’t see any, unfortunately).
During our visits we spotted just 30 different species, six of which were lifers. We also saw a few birds that are also present up here in Illinois. Some of these old friends are shown below; stay tuned for more in upcoming posts!